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New York : After announcing the first confirmed death of Covid-19 on February 29, 2020 in the Seattle area, the United States on Monday crossed the symbolic threshold of 500,000 deaths from the epidemic.
Why did the largest power in the world record such a high death toll from the disease? And what did the American specialists extract from this first year of the epidemic?
Dr. Joseph Massey, who has fought all epidemics since AIDS and is today one of the officials at Al Mehurst Hospital in Queens, where a large number of infected people are treated in New York, says that the Covid-19 epidemic was an element of surprise.
He adds that before the epidemic, the United States was monitoring the Corona virus “from a distance”. There were very few cases of SARS (acute respiratory syndrome, a type of corona, detected in 2002). And suddenly the United States found itself at the heart of the problem, he says.
He continues that the “disorganized” response of former President Donald Trump’s government did not help, explaining, “in a country like ours with 50 states and a huge area and a largely private hospital network, it was difficult to gather all opinions about the same strategy.”
Putting masks on “a political issue”
He said the fact that “hospitals were competing for protective equipment did not make any sense. The issue had to be centralized very quickly, and they did not.”
He believes, as Dr. Michael Halpern, a specialist in infectious diseases, in a hospital in the suburbs of New York, where the epidemic has spread strongly as of February 2020, that one of the errors was allowing the wearing of masks to become a “political issue.”
With its fluctuations and doubts about the virus and preventive measures, the Trump administration faced severe criticism of the health crisis.
“It is not difficult to put on the muzzle, we are used to it. But the message must be communicated to people that it is important,” said Dr. Halpern.
For Joseph Massie, the first lesson is learning to rehabilitate hospitals to be able to cope with a sudden influx of patients.
“We are participating in disaster preparedness exercises, and we have done many exercises, but we have done nothing to simulate this: suddenly moving from 12 beds in intensive care to 150 with the necessary staff and equipment,” he said.
Over the months, the public hospital group, including the organization, came up with strategies to distribute the burden among New York’s 11 public hospitals.
In general, Michael Halpern says, “we must realize that hospitals need resources (…) we must invest in research, but also in hospitals and retirement homes, there must be enough staff and have the equipment they need.”
The epidemic also revealed the size of the disparity in the health field in the United States, especially housing, which particularly affects black minorities or those descended from Latin American countries, as Masi asserts. He says that the mixing caused by small housing makes it difficult to respect the rules of social distancing, and ways to adapt these housing units to future epidemics should be considered, “because there will be other epidemics.”
Despite the acceleration of the vaccination campaign, doubts still surround the mutated versions of the virus that have appeared in Britain and South Africa, prompting experts to continue to exercise caution.
Questions about the usefulness of vaccines for new mutations
Without these copies and with the vaccination of more than 70% of the population, Joseph Massi says, there would have been “good chances not to wear masks” by the end of 2021. And if it continued to spread, it would be “much more difficult to say that we are going to finish it” in December .
For her part, Halpern said, “I hope that vaccines are effective, but it is difficult to ensure that they will work in the long term or on new mutations,” adding, “We must prepare to continue this matter for a while.”
In the long term, Massey says, “We must not fall into the trap of forgetfulness” and not think about the epidemic after it is over.
“It is disturbing to think that all of these things happened without warning. We must actually have a global system to monitor disease-causing agents because we live in an era in which we can no longer say ‘there is something happening in Asia that will not affect America’,” he said.
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